Food Network nailed the recipe for pandemic programming

“Pioneer Woman” star Ree Drummond’s pure, wholesome sense of positivity is such a hallmark of her cooking show that the slightest hint of motherly concern in her voice was jarring as she introduced the first of her “Staying at Home” specials.

“Gosh, what a crazy time. How are you all doing?” she asked through the television, surrounded by a gaggle of camera-wielding young adults – her children – acting as her crew. “Things have changed so much, but what has not changed is I still love cooking.”

A stuck-at-home audience seems to agree, with more people than ever hungry for Food Network.

Typically, a television viewer can rely on cable’s most delicious channel to be a respite from the messiness of the world. However, this particular mess – the coronavirus pandemic – has been without boundaries. It’s overtaken all aspects of life and changed it in ways that make whatever normal once existed seem like a memory more than a moment that will return – the same feeling one might get looking at a frozen piece of wedding cake.

As productions began to shutter in the second week of March, the network was quick to realize the need for programming that spoke to the moment, and it’s delivered. With a mix of filmed-at-home originals, a healthy stock of programs that had been filmed to completion but not yet aired and a vast library, the network has emerged as the keeper of the perfect recipe for pandemic programming.

“What’s really interesting and encouraging and gratifying is that different types of people are coming to us for different reasons,” Courtney White, president of Food Network, told CNN. “It’s been great to feel like our content is more needed than ever out there.”